Literature

Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness

August 15, 2014
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Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness

When you think about Wikipedia, you might not immediately envision it as a locus for a political theory of openness—and that might well be due to a cut-and-paste utopian haze that masks the site’s very real politicking around issues of shared decision-making, administrative organization, and the push for and against transparencies. In Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness, forthcoming this December, Nathaniel Tkacz cuts throw the glow and establishes how issues integral to the concept of “openness” play themselves out in the day-to-day reality of Wikipedia’s existence. Recently, critic Alan Liu, whose prescient scholarship on the relationship between our literary/historical and technological imaginations has shaped much of the humanities turn to new media, endorsed the book via Twitter:

With that in mind, the book’s jacket copy furthers a frame for Tkacz’s argument:

Few virtues are as celebrated in contemporary culture as openness. Rooted in software culture and carrying more than a whiff of Silicon Valley technical utopianism, openness—of decision-making, data, and organizational structure—is seen as the cure for many problems in politics and business.

 But what does openness mean, and what would a political theory of openness look like? With Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness, Nathaniel Tkacz uses Wikipedia, the most prominent . . .

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Our free e-book for August: For the Love of It

August 1, 2014
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Our free e-book for August: For the Love of It

Wayne C. Booth (1921–2005) was the George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago, one of the most renowned literary critics of his generation, and an amateur cellist who came to music later in life.  For the Love of It is a story not only of one intimate struggle between a man and his cello, but also of the larger conflict between a society obsessed with success and individuals who choose challenging hobbies that yield no payoff except the love of it. 

“Will be read with delight by every well-meaning amateur who has ever struggled.… Even general readers will come away with a valuable lesson for living: Never mind the outcome of a possibly vain pursuit; in the passion that is expended lies the glory.”—John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune“If, in truth, Booth is an amateur player now in his fifth decade of amateuring, he is certainly not an amateur thinker about music and culture. . . . Would that all of us who think and teach and care about music could be so practical and profound at the same time.”—Peter Kountz, New York Times Book Review

“Wayne Booth, the prominent American literary critic, has . . .

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Advanced praise for The Getaway Car

July 9, 2014
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Advanced praise for The Getaway Car

On our forthcoming The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany, from Kirkus Reviews (read the review in full here):

Westlake (1933–2008), who wrote under his own name and a handful of pseudonyms, was an award-winning writer of crime, mystery and detective novels; short stories; screenplays; and one children’s book. University of Chicago Press promotions director Stahl thinks this collection of Westlake’s nonfiction will please his fans; it’s likely these sharp, disarmingly funny pieces will also create new ones. The editor includes a wide range of writing: interviews, letters, introductions to Westlake’s and others’ work, and even recipes. “May’s Famous Tuna Casserole” appeared in the cookbook A Taste of Murder. May is the “faithful companion” of Westlake’s famous protagonist John Dortmunder, “whose joys are few and travails many.” Another of his culinary joys, apparently, was sautéed sloth. One of the best essays is “Living With a Mystery Writer,” by Westlake’s wife, Abby Adams: “Living with one man is difficult enough; living with a group can be nerve-wracking. I have lived with the consortium which calls itself Donald Westlake for five years now, and I still can’t always be sure, when I get up in the morning, which of the . . .

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Andrew Piper on aging and writing

February 25, 2014
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Andrew Piper on aging and writing

Above: Goethe’s published poems, color-coded by genre. From Andrew Piper’s striking analysis of Goethe’s shifting vocabulary, with its turn in later years to an increased degree of generic heterogeneity, part of a larger digital humanities project on aging and writing, which can be found here.

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Q & A with Peggy Shinner

February 21, 2014
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Q & A with Peggy Shinner

Peggy Shinner is a lifelong Chicagoan and author of the forthcoming collection You Feel So Mortal: Essays on the Body. A Q & A about bodies, the book, and Shinner’s process follows below.

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What led you to write a collection of essays about the body? 

The first piece I wrote was about knives. At the time I was a practicing martial artist, and we trained with them in class. We called them practice knives; they were fake—rubber or wood. “Go get a knife,” the teacher would say. And so there we were, a room full of students stabbing and slashing each other. The purpose, of course, was to learn to defend ourselves against them. But I found the whole thing odd and disconcerting. Here I was learning to stab someone. From knives I went on to autopsies. I’d authorized one for my father, and for a long time after I’d been uncomfortable with that decision. Knives, autopsies. It didn’t take long for me to see that I was on to something, and from there the essays seemed to emerge.

You reveal very personal things about yourself in your essays. How is your collection of . . .

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A Naked Singularity and the Folio Prize

February 17, 2014
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A Naked Singularity and the Folio Prize

The Folio Prize is the first major English-language book prize open to writers from around the world—an alternative to the Booker Prize (UK) and the National Book Award (US), featuring an international cast of nominees, that aspires, “to celebrate the best fiction of our time, regardless of form or genre, and to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible.”

On Monday, the Folio committee announced their shortlist for the inaugural 2014 Prize, which followed rounds of nominations from their Academy and requisite letters of support from publishers. We could not be more delighted (truly!) to see Sergio De La Pava’s debut novel A Naked Singularity (published in the UK by Maclehose Editions) among the finalists, praised by Lavinia Greenlaw, chair of the judges, for its “detonating syntax.” Here’s the whole list, which certainly constitutes good company:

Red Doc by Anne Carson

Schroder by Amity Gaige

Last Friends by Jane Gardam

Benediction by Kent Haruf

The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner

A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Tenth of December by George Saunders

The winner will be announced March 10. Congrats to all the finalists—but we . . .

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Free e-book for January: Murder in Ancient China

January 9, 2014
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Free e-book for January: Murder in Ancient China

Murder in Ancient China by Robert van Gulik (1910–67), our free e-book for January, helps us launch our latest batch of Chicago Shorts. Part of the Judge Dee mysteries series that orientalist historian and diplomat van Gulik created following a career spent in Allied-occupied Tokyo and Chongqing, China, for the Dutch Foreign Service.

Judge Dee—Confucian Imperial magistrate, inquisitor, and public avenger, based on a famous statesman—was van Gulik’s lasting invention. A welcome addition to the elite canon of fictional detectives, the Judge steps in to investigate homicide, theft, and treason, while attempting to restore order to the golden age of the Tang Dynasty. In Murder in Ancient China’s first story, Judge Dee attempts to solve the mystery of an elderly poet murdered by moonlight in his garden pavilion; in the second, set on the eve of the Chinese New Year, the Judge makes two rare mistakes—to ambiguous results.

Chicago Shorts, published every four to six months, include never-before-published material, off-the-radar reads culled from the University of Chicago Press’s commanding archive, and the best of our newest books, all priced for impulse buying (four titles this season for just $0.99) and presented exclusively in . . .

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On Victor Brombert’s Ninetieth Birthday

November 11, 2013
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On Victor Brombert’s Ninetieth Birthday

To launch our part of University Press Week, honor Veterans Day, and to celebrate the 90th birthday of scholar, writer, and World War II veteran Victor Brombert, Alan Thomas, our Editorial Director for the Humanities and Social Sciences, offers below an introduction to some reflections by Alexander Nehamas, philosopher and friend of Brombert.

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As Victor Brombert writes in the prologue to Musings on Mortality, no author chooses a subject innocently, least of all when the subject is mortality and the author is in his eighties. Before he had yet reached thirty, Brombert was already too familiar with mortality—the deaths of a younger sister, of family and friends in the Holocaust, of fellow soldiers on the battlefields of World War II. Brombert survived with a spirit of buoyancy that inspired generations of students and that today, his ninetieth birthday, still fills his friends with admiration and delight. It was books, he recalls, that rescued him upon his return from war: “I was elated by my readings. . . . For I began to understand that all art and the love of art allow us, according to André Malraux’s famous pronouncement, to negate our nothingness.”

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Andrew Piper on the new world of electronic reading

November 5, 2013
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Andrew Piper on the new world of electronic reading

In 2012, Andrew Piper published Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times, which expanded upon his established interest in textual circulation, embodiment, and identity (see Dreaming in Books: The Making of the Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age) under the pressures of the digital. Since then, in a year that has evidenced the e-book’s continuing encroachment into the literary market share (from 20 percent in 2012 to early estimates of 30 percent in 2013), Piper has upped the stakes of his argument: we have already gone electronic, and it’s only because of our own constraints that we still make e-books look and act like printed books. If we know that “literature is data,” how can we poise ourselves to take much greater advantage of that knowledge amid semi-seismic technological shifts?

In a recent essay for World Literature Today, Piper considered the case for computational reading: a way of translating literary texts into quantifiable units—rather than simply mirroring them as the printed book’s shadow self—that can be used for purposes such as determining the authorial identity of Elizabethan authors or sussing out whether late-career works by Agatha Christie reveal symptoms comparable to those found . . .

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Jezebel on The Library: A World History

October 25, 2013
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Jezebel on The Library: A World History

Laura Beck at Jezebel stared down the facade of The Library: A World History and liked what she saw (“You’re Gonna Drool Over This Pure, Perfect Library Porn“):

The new book The Library: A World History, is filled with gorgeous photography of book palaces around the world. That one above is the grand Philosophical Hall, at Strahov Abbey in Prague, and it’s straight Beauty and the Beast-style. I half expect Belle to come flying by on a rolling staircase talking about the book with the far-off places and a prince in disguise. It’s her favorite!

For added context, here’s UK-based author James W. P. Campbell’s take on the library in the world:

The irony is that today we are told that the book and hence the library, is under threat. So will this study serve merely as a memorial to a defunct building type? Perhaps, but not quite yet. Today more books are bring printed each year than ever before. While public libraries are being closed in Europe, other parts of the world, such as China, are building them. The sales of physical books are increasing, . . .

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